Hiking the Buggy Top Trail to Lost Cave

Hiking the Buggy Top Trail to Lost Cave

Buggy Top Trail & Sewanee Natural Bridge

Lost Cove & Peter Caves on Crow Creek

4.4 Miles, South Cumberland Plateau

April 9, 2016

Wes Chapman


IMG_0394Emily & Martha on the Natural Bridge

Spring arrived in Middle Tennessee late and cold, and found us with friends Emily and Wynne doing a little early season hiking around the town of Monteagle, on the edge of the Cumberland Plateau. The Cumberland Plateau is an enormous, sandstone capped plateau that runs down the west side of the Appalachians from New York to Alabama. The underlying rock is all limestone, which produces the unique features of karst topography including plateaus, sinkholes and underground rivers – very cool stuff, and fun hiking.


A piece of sandstone/capstone waiting to let go

The soil on the plateau is thin and dry, the drainage vertical into the limestone below. Over time the resulting drainage and collapse features include natural bridges – like the one just outside the Sewanee campus.

The entrance to the Buggy Top Trail is in a poorly marked pull-off (marked as Wildlife Viewing Area) just off TN Route 56 as it comes down off the Plateau. This road is a series of switchbacks, that made me wish I’d brought my bike along.

The trail has a total of 600 feet of elevation gain/loss, the last 200 feet of which comes at the edge of Crow Creek, with a spectacular bluff. The route down to the cave is a little rough, but well-marked and has good footing.

This area is around 2,000 of elevation, versus 650 in Nashville, and spring arrives about a week or two later. The wild dogwoods were just coming into bloom, and the trees still had the pale green tint of fresh chlorophyll, not yet exposed to the sun – simply glorious.


Dogwoods coming into bloom

Lost Cave is truly impressive, and well worth the trip. The cave entrance is wide open – easily accommodating “dry foot” entry. The water coming out of the cave is turbid with minerals – resembling the water coming off a glacier – full of rock flower. I assume that there must be a fair amount of mechanical agitation of rock as the water drops through the rock strata to Crow Creek.


The entrance to Lost Cave

Dwarf Cinquefoil

Dwarf Cinquefoil


Stream flowing out of Lost Cave

Mountain Phlox

Mountain Phlox

IMG_0403 (2)

Steep path to Lost Cave


Peter’s Cave entrance

The entrance to Peter’s Cave was a bit of a disappointment. The mouth of the cave was completely collapsed, and the stream was not visible. The trip out was fast, and dinner at High Point (one of Al Capone’s old homes) was terrific. We’ll be back for more hikes on the south Cumberland Plateau – chasing waterfalls and caves.


Adios, from the Buggy Top Trail

Wes Chapman
Written by Wes Chapman

4 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    April 11, 2016

    Beautiful photography, Wes!


  2. Avatar
    April 11, 2016

    I’m sorry that my cave was a disappointment. I’ve been meaning to clear the entrance.



  3. Avatar
    April 12, 2016

    You must have been disappointed not to have to break trail through a foot of snow.


  4. Avatar
    December 28, 2020

    I went this past Summer – maybe it is because my knees are shot and I hiked when I had severe pain from plantar fasciitis but this should be a trail labeled for the advanced. I wanted to cry once we got to the bottom and then realized how far / how long long it would take us to get back to car!! Now for the scenery, absolutely breath taking – glad I went but not wanting to go again.